Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Terms of Disappropriation: Disability, Diaspora and Dionne Brand's What We All Long For

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2010), 4, (2), 147–162.

Abstract

The article brings together the minority discourses of disability and diaspora. Their shared spaces, histories and narratives—although not always welcome—warrant greater examination. Various moments of diaspora discourse are visited (from Stuart Hall, Robin Cohen, and others) to illustrate how disappropriation of pejorative representations and terms of disability complicate and create theoretical reconsiderations for disabled/diasporic thought in contexts of race, gender, class, trauma, and performance. Although language itself often creates inadequacies through its own terms—especially in the context of expressing "inexpressible" atrocities—can words accommodate expression without relying on the worn out prosthetics of disability for cachet? The article also explores the treatment of madness and the limp in Canadian author Dionne Brand's transitional text What We All Long For (2005), where diaspora appears in marked terms, connected to the mind and body—informing and troubling characters and experiences. Khachig Tölölyan's porous notion of diaspora is expanded to build several connections with disability—including slavery and eugenics. The conclusion draws on Sharon Snyder and David Mitchell's work on the scientific and medical fields that generated a "Eugenic Atlantic," culminating in the Third Reich, and based on biopolitical orchestrations that generated, for fascist goals, white able-bodied standards, against which European and U.S. eugenic workers drew significant links between diasporic and disabled groups.

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Ewart, Chris